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Alcazar: a hero?

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#1 · Posted: 22 Sep 2004 01:52
I was thinking about this in an effort not to read about admiralty law the other day.

General Alcazar a.k.a. Ramon Zarate... one of the more frequent recurring Tintin characters (four adventures, putting him on par even with Rastapopoulos), and generally thought to be one of the 'good guys,' at least inasmuch as he's not in league with better-defined villains of the series, such as Rastapopoulos, Allan, Sponsz or Müller. And certainly his rival Tapioca is less sympathetic than he, making the reader default to Alcazar's side in the civil strife in San Theodoros.

But has Alcazar earned the right to be declared a 'heroic' figure? Let's see what he did in the series:

1. He ran an archetypal banana republic, whose agents would have put Tintin to death without trial if not for an alcohol-induced show of meaningless loyalty on Tintin's part. Later, after having made Tintin a colonel in his army (and pretending to shoot him for winning a game of chess), he had him nevertheless imprisoned.

2. Deposed from power, he became an obscure, traveling knife-throwing performer.

3. In an effort to regain power in his country, his mixed company with shady arms dealers in Europe.

4. He led a Guevara-esque guerrilla war against the Tapioca regime in the rural areas of his country, and proceeded to reform nothing in practice upon taking power (at least, that's the implication), even re-renaming the capital after himself.

Alcazar is more often than not happy to see Tintin (although in Red Sea Sharks he was pretty anxious to get away, too), but his 'friendship' is more one of shared experience than actual friendship. It is quite telling that Tintin, when agreeing to come to San Theodoros in <em>Picaros</em>, continuously refers to the "friends" he must save as Castafiore and the Thom(p)sons. Even though he has crossed the world, he never expressed a real desire even to see his old compadre Alcazar let alone help him out.

(Tintin's general apathy and lack of altruism in Picaros has, of course, been the subject of much discussion in the works of Peeters, Thompson and Farr, and has plenty of its own reasons, but the connection seemingly absent between Tintin and Alcazar still seems, to me, quite conspicuous).

Any thoughts?
#2 · Posted: 22 Sep 2004 02:38
I think Alcazar has his own agenda. He's his own person and doesn't appear to have time for friendship or doesn't want it.
I never thought of him as one of the good guys. Its a bit like Carriades from Flight 714. He's meant to be on Tintin's side, but his selfishness allows him to be almost as crooked as Rastapopoulos.
#3 · Posted: 22 Sep 2004 07:44
Well put, Tintinrulz. Alcazar is, I think, an archetypal rogue – neither true friend nor true adversary, he would do whatever needed to get what he wants.

However, Hergé rather does play him for the lighter notes, giving him more weaknesses than strengths for comedic effect. This dilutes the problems of his being comparable to real-world figures; he’s more like the chap that Peter Ustinov played in “Viva Max!” than Saddam Hussein.

His vanity and bombast are shot down by his actual circumstances: he is a dictator who changes the name of a city for himself, but also reduced to working the music-halls and hen-pecked at home.
#4 · Posted: 22 Sep 2004 10:21
I think Alcazar is a great character. He's the only non-bad guy in the adventures who doesn't have a heart of absolute gold, and adds a different dimension to the adventures. That said, I'm pretty sure that despite his ways, if Tintin's (or the Captain's) life was on the line, he would come good. And he did agree to Tintin's terms in Picaros didn't he? Surely, if he was even a slightly 'bad' person he would not do this?
#5 · Posted: 22 Sep 2004 12:09
I feel Alcazar is neither a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’, but a satirical character that Herge uses to comment on political power. In ‘Tintin and the Picaros’ he overthrows Tapiocas tyrannically led state, but to any avail? The last scenes show no difference at all, just police with different helmets. Alcazar had done nothing for the people, even though he looked like a socialist revolutionary. A very political and clever joke.
#6 · Posted: 24 Sep 2004 13:51
There are some contradictions/discontinuities in Alcazar's role in the series.

1. In The Broken Ear, Alcazar role ends when he orders Tintin to death upon suspecting that he is a neuvo rican spy when Tintin is saved by Pablo (so we assume that Pablo is against Alcazar)

2. In The Seven Crystal Balls Alcazar is pleased to see Tintin. Now considering the way the two parted in Broken Ear, this does not quite fit in the plot.

3. In the Picaros Pablo is supposed to be "dead loyal" to Alcazar (which doesnt turn out to be). Again this is not exactly consistent with Point No. 1 (Broken Ear)
#7 · Posted: 24 Sep 2004 16:31 · Edited by: OJG
There are many possible explanations for these.

Alcazar being pleased to see Tintin in Crystal Balls could easily be just, well, General Alcazar. He's the kind of guy that would probably say something like "Pah, all ancient history, amigo. We're all friends now, eh?". He could have learned of what really went on in Broken Ear and seen who was doing what there.

Reagrding Pablo, perhaps the General didn't know that it was Pablo who rescued Tintin, or if he did then he realised that Pablo figured out the good guys from the bad guys correctly. If the latter is the case, this may even be why Alcazar put his trust in Pablo; it's the sort of thing he would do. One thing is for sure- the General is very quick to change his opinion of someone.
#8 · Posted: 25 Sep 2004 19:06
When the Captain and Calculus first come to Tapiocapolis, you see the exact same scene as when they leave it (as Alcazaropolis), and the only difference is the sign which has just changed to "Viva Alcazar". That just shows he's as bad as Tapioca.
#9 · Posted: 25 Sep 2004 20:28
To be fair to Alcazar, I think it a bit much for him to instigate sweeping social reforms after only a few days in power.

#10 · Posted: 26 Sep 2004 18:27
Another inconsistency is in Alcazar's financial resources. In the seven crystal balls, he makes his living by throwing knives which I do not think is a profession which will exactly make him rich enough to buy "mosquitoes" (fighter-planes) in the Red Sea Sharks.

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